Sohei Nishino

In making his Diorama maps, Nishino combines photography, collage, cartography and psychogeography to create large prints of urban landscapes. Drawing inspiration from the 18th century Japanese mapmaker, Ino Tadataka, his prints re-imagine the cities he has visited. To build his Diorama maps, Nishino walks a city's streets for an average of three months, exploring many vantage points and gathering hundreds of rolls of exposed film. He then painstakingly prints the photographs by hand and compiles them to form the tableaux he will use as the basis for his limited edition photographs. 


The overall effect is not a traditional bird's-eye view but an enlightened way of seeing three dimensions in one plane. Although geographical accuracy is important in this process, scales are altered and locations occasionally repeated, mimicking our own fluid memories of place and time. From a distance the maps are almost abstract, it is not until we examine them in detail that the full diorama unfolds - the theatre of one man's city played out in miniature.



"I just let myself rely on the experience of walking - it's the accidental, coincidental elements that make it interesting. Then once I'm home I continue the journey of discovery in the darkroom."

- Sohei Nishino

"I walk through these cities, camera in hand, capturing multi-facetted views that I then combine, one by one, in accordance with my memories, arranging them into a map that portrays all the singular aspects of the place. The result is quite different from the denotative expression of a map; it uses photographs (single 35mm frames) of concrete objects or shapes as units to recreate a geographical representation, expressing the city through human memories and images. This means that the finished work is anything but an accurate map, it is simply the town as seen through the eyes of a single individual, a trace of the way in which I walked through it, an embodiment of my awareness, a microcosm of the life and energy that comprise the city."

Sohei Nishino was born in Hyogo, Japan in 1982. He graduated from Osaka University of the Arts in 2004, when he began working on his Diorama Map series. Since then he has exhibited his work internationally and gleaned numerous awards including 'President Award', Osaka University of Arts (2004), 'Young Eye Japanese Photographer Association Award' (2005), 'Canon New Cosmos Photography Award' (2005) and the 'Canon Excellence Award' (2005). He has also participated in several group shows, festivals and solo exhibitions: Daegu Photo Biennale, Korea (2010); Out of Focus exhibition, Saatchi Gallery, London (2012); Contemporary Japanese Photography vol.10, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography (2012); A Different Kind of Order: ICP Triennial, New York (2013).



Michael Hoppen Gallery are thrilled to present new work alongside early diorama maps by Sohei Nishino, at the gallery: March 11th - April 25th, 2020. 

Sohei Nishino’s enduring fascination with map-making has taken a new direction in his most recent projects, which bring his cartographic vision to bear upon places which have traditionally defied definition on paper. His signature photo-collage technique pieces together thousands of images taken over the course of his travels, to construct dioramas of complex geographies which integrate human and physical landscapes. Moving beyond his earlier work in urban environments, Nishino has most recently travelled to Mount Everest, and to the sea which runs between northern Japan and eastern Russia, taking on some of the world’s most challenging environments.


Nishino’s Everest draws inspiration from the maps used traditionally by pilgrims to navigate holy sites. Fascinated by the historical significance and symbolism of Everest, Nishino shot almost 400 rolls of film during his 23 day journey from Lucla to Gokyo Peak. He relates this intense journey through the Himalayas to those undertaken by sherpas and other local people who call the mountain home. Instead of following a linear course to a fixed destination, as many of visitors to Everest do, Nishino captures his experience of the road from a dense and meticulously planned variety of vantage points. Whilst Nishino continues to explore his interest in the relationship between people and their environment, his map of Everest illustrates an intense engagement with this harsh geography, and the ways that it shapes the lives of local populations. Nishino has described this project as one of the toughest periods of shooting, and in its unprecedented scale and use of colour it stands apart from his other work to date.


To create Journey of Drifting Ice, Nishino started out from the extreme north-eastern tip of Japan, on Hokkaidō’s Shiretoko peninsular. Fascinated by the drift ice, which expands across Shiretoko’s seas, he began to research the science behind these colossal formations and the remarkable journey ice floes travel from Russia’s great Amur River through to the Sea of Okhotsk before arriving in Japanese waters. Nishino observes the drift ice as a naturally occurring transnational phenomenon, acting as a prescient appeal to our divided global society. In the light of the environmental crisis, Nishino’s mapping of these disappearing geographical features is charged with additional urgency; the landscape of these long unchartered waters is changing rapidly, and Nishino’s photography takes stock of both the ice floe’s evolving position and the integral necessity of its ecosystems to the diverse communities which rely upon them. 


View exbition page here